OVERVIEW OF THE REGISTRAR GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT
Registration of public records is an essential administrative function of any country. In The Bahamas, the system of registration developed in the late eighteenth century, undergoing many substantive changes through to the twenty-first century. However, the earliest reference to the public registration of records in The Bahamas was in 1764, the creation of a separate office of the Register of Records in 1862 and the creation of the Registrar General’s Department in 1914. The Secretary of the Providence (Colonial Secretary) was responsible for the public registration of records in 1764. Records generated by the office include deeds, conveyances and related land papers, slave documents, births, deaths, marriage records, court records, naturalization documents, patent and voter registers as well as census related materials.
On March 14, 1850 the government, following the direction of Great Britain, passed the Births and Deaths Registration Act, which stated that all registers of births and deaths should be now kept at the ‘Registry of Records’. Ministers and churchwardens were still empowered to perform their duties as prescribed in the 1823 Act. However, under the new Births and Deaths Registration Act 1850, the Governor was empowered to ‘appoint persons’ to act as registrars of births and deaths for various districts, parishes or towns within the colony. The Registrar was authorized to inform himself carefully of every birth and every death in the district to which he was appointed and to ensure that these ‘were registered’ on the specific forms for the registry of births and deaths. Each form was to be filled and subsequently returned to the Registry of Records.
The Governor was instructed to appoint a Registrar and keeper of Records, who would have no other post ‘save and except’ that he shall be ex-officio Registrar of the Court of Ordinary and Chancery. All powers and authority given originally to the Colonial Secretary was now given to the Registrar of Records. Provision was also made for the appointment of a clerk to assist the Registrar in carrying out the duties of the office.
Under the amended Registrar General’s Act, the name of Registrar of Records was changed to Registrar General in 1914. Mr. Herbert Cecil Stronge was appointed as the first Registrar General and Mr. Roger Kelsall Duncombe was named the first Assistant Registrar General.
In 1965/1966 the Department of the Supreme Court was separated from the Registrar General’s Department. In 1968 when government ministries were created under the new constitution, the Registrar General’s Department was made the responsibility of the Minister responsible for the Registry of Records. Presently, the Registrar General’s Department falls under the portfolio of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
Today, the Registrar General’s Department is housed at Shirley House, #50 Shirley Street in Nassau, The Bahamas and the Fidelity Building in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The Department currently has thirteen sections namely: Marriages, Deeds and Documents (Data Management), Births and Deaths Registration, Births, Deaths and Marriage Certification, Customer Service, Central File Registry, Accounts, MIS, Scanning, Industrial Properties, Copyright, Companies and the Mail Room.
Recording of documents for posterity; providing prompt and efficient service with integrity to the public; and generating revenue for the Government of The Bahamas.
To develop leaders and promote an effective and knowledgeable cross-trained staff, ready to face the challenges of the twenty-first century and beyond.